ARTICLE :: International workers play an important role in perpetuating the carefully crafted fantasy that to visit the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida is to be transported to far-off destinations around the globe. This Article examines how Disney has filled its need for these workers in two ways. For one, Disney has used a blend of chutzpah and ingenuity to forge new federal law establishing the Q visa. Additionally, Disney has dexterously used the existing J visa, along with an on-resort academic program, to bring international workers to Florida as students.
An examination of Disney’s immigration practices offers insight into the larger questions of who designs and benefits from immigration laws. These questions are particularly worthy of attention given the current call for federal immigration reform.
I proceed by detailing the history of the Q visa law, which was designed by Disney for its own needs—namely, to authorize “cultural representatives” to travel to the United States for short durations and to work in jobs where they share aspects of their home countries with the American public. This present study is the first historical treatment of the Q visa in the literature. I then discuss what Disney has appropriated from its custom-designed immigration program. Next, I look at the J visa and how Disney has exploited it by analyzing the history of the J visa, which was created during the Cold War to cultivate an appreciation for and familiarity with American society. I then look at Disney’s International College Program, which is intended to provide compliance with the J visa law while ensuring a ready stream of available labor for Disney’s mammoth Florida resort operations. A thorough exploration of the facts shows that Disney’s International College Program is not consistent with the original statutory intent. Scrutiny of Disney’s Q and J visa programs highlights weaknesses in our current immigration system and illustrates how those flaws might affect future immigration reforms.
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